All Hallow’s Eve: Part Four
"Just remember to lock it at night," Holly said as she motioned toward the deadbolt Jasper had installed on Douglas' door.
"All right, old mum. You need to relax a little, though. You've been on edge since Jasper's accident in the Woods; nothing is going to come out of them to harm us. But, if makes you sleep better at night, I'll remember to bolt the door," Douglas replied.
Holly smoothed down a Kaulick in his hair and said, "Thank you, little brother. I'll try."
The next two nights seemed quiet enough, there was no more pacing of a large creature on the floorboards of the rooms above. It didn't reassure Holly any, it just made her wonder what the creature was up to.
On the third night, a great storm raged around Neovia. Wind and rain pelted the house violently. Holly stood at her window and watched the lightning flash. Thunder and lightning always accompanied the storms in the Haunted Woods. The clock had chimed twelve not long ago. There came a knock at her door, and Douglas poked his head in.
"Holly. I think the roof might have suffered some damage. I can hear a dull banging, and I'm pretty sure it is coming from the attic. I'm going to back to bed now. Sleep well, Holly," Douglas said to her then left.
Holly had taken off her shoes and put on her slippers, but otherwise she was still dressed. She put her shoes back on, grabbed a shawl and a candle, and then went down the hall to Jasper's room. If the roof was damaged, the cold wind and rain would be getting in; it might hurt whatever plants he was growing up there.
She knocked on his door, but there was no answer. She kept knocking gently, still he didn't answer. She decided he would want to be awoken. Holly pulled out her keys, unlocked the door, and went in. She quickly realized he wasn't in the room. Panic gripped her, he might be up in the attic and he might be hurt.
She hurried to the door to the third floor. She hesitated only a second before going through, but made sure to lock the door behind her before ascending the stairs. She came to the stairs to the attic. She could clearly hear the banging Douglas had been talking about. She hurried up the stairs and fumbled for her key. Jasper had asked her not to go up there, but he hadn't taken her key to the attic.
As she slid the key into the lock she thought that she heard growling on the other side of the door. Convincing herself that it was just her imagination, she unlocked the door and opened it.
Inside was a cluttered apartment, the tables and shelves were covered in plants, papers, and bottles filled with strange substances. On the far side of the room was a cage, and in it was the creature that had attacked her weeks ago.
Fear choked her, making her unable to scream. The creature raged against its prison, but its fighting was ineffectual. The creature was even larger and more hulking than when Holly had seen it last. Its massive claws were longer and sharper looking. Holly looked around for Jasper; he had to have captured the creature. He was nowhere to be seen.
She called for him and looked around the room while being careful not to get too close to the cage. He was not there. Her eyes fell on the papers and books scattered around the room. They were recipes for antidotes of some kind. She looked over them and a sudden, terrible thought came to her.
"Jasper, please tell me that's not you," Holly whispered as she looked at the creature.
It didn't answer her; it just kept snarling and fighting. She sat down on a sofa that was in the room and waited there, all night, watching the creature. As the clock chimed four in the morning the creature suddenly calmed. The shadows slowly melted away from it, into the floor, and there stood Jasper. He collapsed to the ground unconscious. Holly got up to search around for the key. She found it on a desk where Jasper could reach it when he transformed back into his natural self.
She unlocked the cage door and gave him a slight shake, but he was very soundly asleep. She couldn't bear to leave him in the cage so she pulled him out and laid him on the floor. She put a pillow under his head and sat by him while he slept. She couldn't help but cry now that she knew the truth. Jasper was the monster that had been lurking the house, and he had known it all along.
Finally, about an hour later, he began to stir. She looked down at him as he opened his eyes. They grew huge when he realized that she was in the attic with him.
"Holly, what are you doing up here?" Jasper asked weakly.
"Jasper, what did you do? You can't have always been that creature; I've seen you before at night." Holly's voice was barely above a whisper.
Jasper got up and walked over to a window. He stood there, looking out at the gloomy sky. He sighed, shaking his head. Holly stayed sitting on the floor, watching him.
"You'll catch cold if you keep sitting on the floor, Holly," Jasper said without looking at her.
"I'm not getting up until you tell me the truth, Jasper," Holly replied, staying firmly rooted to where she was.
Jasper sighed tiredly and rubbed his eyes. Then he came over to her and lifted her to her feet. He led her to the sofa where they sat down. He took both her hands. He refused to look her in the face, looking down at her hands instead.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you, Holly. I didn't want you to know about this. It started after my last trip into the Woods. I told you I wasn't strong enough to protect you and Douglas, you made me promise not to go back out there until I was stronger. I really didn't know what to do. Then, in the book with the map, I found a recipe for a potion that was supposed to give me incredible strength and agility. I made the potion and drank it. Nothing seemed different after I drank it. I thought it had been defective. I started looking for other things to try. Then, that night, at midnight, I blacked out. When I came to, I was lying in a bedroom on the third story. I went back upstairs to the attic, but I didn't find anything out of place. I wasn't sure what to think. I went downstairs and found you lying in the hall. Since I had blacked out that night I was worried that I had done something to you, especially since you were lying in front of the door to the third story. Then you told me what had happened. At first I hoped that I perhaps had been attacked by the monster that you saw, and that was why I didn't remember anything. I went and searched the rooms, but found no sign of anything entering or leaving the mansion. It was then that I realized the truth; I knew that I had to have been the monster you encountered. I made up the story about the window and told you not to go up there again if you thought you heard something."
"Oh, Jasper! How could you? You know nothing in the Haunted Woods comes without a price. How could you be foolish enough to try a potion promising such things?" Holly cried in dismay.
"I was a fool, Holly. I thought only of what it promised and the possibility of getting us out of here. I never considered that there might be dangerous side-affects with it. After I realized what was happening, I tried to find a cure. At first, during the blackout periods, I tried to confine myself to the attic, but I worried I would destroy things up here and ruin my chances of finding a cure. Then, I confined myself to the third story; which is when you heard me again. I couldn't bring myself to shut myself up in that cage. I'm so very sorry, Holly. It was so wrong of me to have lied to you and tried to make you believe you were imagining things. Then, three days ago, when you came to me telling me that you wanted to leave, I realized how wrong I had been. I should have let you go, Holly, but I was terrified at the thought of being left alone with myself. I had thought that you would be safe so long as the door was locked, but I realized you were right. If the creature I become ever decided to go down to the second floor, there is no way that door would stop it. I should have realized the danger I was putting you and Douglas in sooner. I decided to start shutting myself in the cage. So far I have had no luck with finding an antidote," Jasper finished.
Holly could tell how frightened Jasper was by how tightly he held her hands. Tears rolled down her face, she had never seen him frightened before. He had always been the brave one. She knew now it was her turn.
She leaned her head against his shoulder and said, "It's all right, Jasper. We'll beat this. We will figure out the antidote and everything will go back to the way it was."
Jasper wrapped his arms around her and she held him tight, trying to soothe him the way she had for Douglas after he had had a nightmare when he was small.
"Oh, Holly," he moaned. "All I wanted was a better life for us. A life without the constant darkness and fear of the Haunted Woods. I'm so sorry."
"Don't worry, Jasper. Everything will be fine. We'll figure this out," Holly crooned.
He pulled away from her and went to the window again. He looked hopeless.
"Holly, there is more to this curse. I discovered it when I was trying to find the antidote. If the light of the full moon falls on me on All Hallow's Eve, I'll be trapped as the beast forever," Jasper said weakly.
A gasp of horror escaped Holly. There would be a full moon this thirty-first, and it was only eleven days away....
To be continued...